He wore a gray suit with a dark shirt and a blue tie that fit him so perfectly I knew it must have been custom made for him. His dark blond hair had been combed and gelled into submission. Normally, it stood up in random spikes around his head—not as a stylistic choice, but because he had the tendency to run his fingers through it nervously until it went in about 14 different directions.
Until that moment, I hadn’t been convinced he’d survived the fall off the roof of Amara’s estate. Every night in my dreams, I stared at his broken body, tears running down my face. I wasn’t sure why I cried: because I had killed him, or because he had destroyed me.
But here was John, very much alive, looking like the fantasy of some billionaire boss about to have hot monkey sex with his secretary on the desk. He didn’t look like the John I remembered, who’d spent most of our time together wearing blood-covered t-shirts. Which one was the real John, I wondered, the suave businessman or the urban warrior? And then I noticed the pin on his lapel: a flaming angel that matched the ones on the others’ pendants. John had declared his allegiance, and it wasn’t to me.
“My apologies for the mess,” he said. “Ephraim, Leah, please clean that up. Make sure you dispose of the body well. I don’t want him coming back to haunt us one of these days.” A man and a woman jumped out of their seats and scooped up the body, leaving just a puddle of blood behind. Guess they’d be getting that later.
John turned to the rest of the group. “Let’s not forget why we’re here. This illness is already devastating our community, and it’s getting worse. The Zeta Coalition created it with the intent of wiping out supernaturals—angels and demons. And if we can’t cooperate, they will succeed.”
“She’s the daughter of our worst enemy!” someone shouted.
“What about taking an army and storming the compound, like we talked about a few weeks ago?” someone asked.
To my surprise, it was Tina who answered. “The compound is too heavily fortified, and its underground architecture would make it difficult to strong-arm. We’ve run the scenario many times, accounting for the different variables. The most likely outcome is that we’d end up trapped down there while the Zetas pick us off.”
“There must be another way,” a woman said.
“Maybe, but this is the best way,” John replied. “We all know Dale can do things that no one else can. Her return may have been a coincidence, but we should use that to our advantage.”
“I haven’t agreed to anything yet,” I managed to get out through gritted teeth.
Beth Woodward has always had a love for the dark, the mysterious, and all things macabre. She blames her mother for this one: while other kids were watching cartoons, Beth and her mother were watching Unsolved Mysteries together every week. She was doomed from the beginning. At 12, she discovered the wonders of science fiction and fantasy when she read A Wrinkle in Time, which remains the most influential book of her life. Growing up, she was Meg Murray with a dash of Oscar the Grouch. She’s been writing fiction since she was six years old; as a cantankerous kid whose family moved often, the fictional characters she created became her friends. As an adult, she’s slightly more well adjusted, but she still withdraws into her head more often than is probably healthy.